Santiago is less of a city to go and see specific sites and more of a city to explore and experience its wealth of museums, events, theaters, restaurants, bars and culture. There are a few different free walking tours to choose from that will focus on different neighbourhoods to help familiarize you with Santiago.
I stayed in the bohemian and trendy neighbourhood of Bellavista at La Chimba, a fun hostel that reminded me of Narnia and Clue. In the Bellavista, you can visit La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda‘s houses (a famous Chilean poet and politician); hike (about 45 mins) to Cerro San Cristobal to see the view and sunset (or drive or take the cable car); and visit some of the many lively restaurants and bars.
Near Bellavista is La Vega Central market, where you will find the mother load of the best, freshest and cheapest produce you’ll ever have in your life. If it grows in Chile, you’ll find it at this market (and a lot grows in Chile, due to the climate). The fruit is AMAZING!!! Berries, melons, citrus fruits, tropical fruits, and stone fruits- Vega’s got it all.
In downtown Santiago, is Santa Lucía Hill, a small oasis in the middle of the city with a castle, fortress and fountains. It has great views of Santiago and it’s free!
An hour outside of Santiago is the Maipo Valley wine region, which is worth a day trip of visiting the wineries. I visited Concha y Toro winery, the biggest wine producer in Latin America and the only winery accessible via transit in Santiago (it takes about an hour via metro from downtown Santiago. See exactly how to get there here)
Chile is in a major earthquake zone, so there are earthquakes literally everyday, ranging in magnitude, so you will probably experience one when you’re there. I experienced a little one when I was in Santiago. Since it was just a minor earthquake, it was actually pretty cool and not scary, but shortly after I left Chile, they had a major 8.2 earthquake.
Speaking of earthquakes, when in Chile, try a terremoto (Spanish for earthquake), a drink made with pipeño (a type of sweet fermented wine), fernet (strong liquor) and pineapple ice cream served in a pitcher. It’s very sweet, but very deceivingly strong, so when you get up, you feel shaky, like an earthquake.
Good to know:
Santiago has a great metro system, making it very easy to get around the city.
By South American standards, Santiago is a safe city, but still beware of pickpocketing and petty crime. The trade off for Santiago’s safety is that it is one of the more expensive cities of South America.